McLennan County Grew by 2,500 People in 2009, New Census Estimates Show

March 24, 2010

McLennan County grew by more than 2,500 people between July 2009 and July 2008, according to a Baylor University sociologists' analysis of just-released Census Bureau estimates of counties and metropolitan areas in the United States.

The sociologists said that the slow but steady growth is a positive trend economically. It also is a plus because rapid, steep growth can pose problems as local government planners struggle to meet infrastructure demands and deal with heavier traffic, they said.

The estimated population grew from 230,849 to 233,378 in McLennan County, which constitutes the Waco Metropolitan Statistical area, said Dr. Charles Tolbert of Baylor's Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD).

The estimates are the last in a series that began after the 2000 Census, he said.

"By the time you reach Year Nine of a 10-year census window, your estimates really need a re-calibration that can only be done with the once-a-decade data," Tolbert said. "Still, these estimates are the best we are going to have until winter of 2011, when the first local results of the 2010 Census roll out."

The new numbers show an estimated population increase of 2,529 in 2009, which is very close to the estimated increases for 2007 and 2008, he said.

The estimates closely follow trends observed in recent years, said Dr. Carson Mencken of the CCRD.

"We continue to see overall population growth in the range of 1 percent per year," Mencken said. "At CCRD, we view this rate of growth as manageable and a net positive for local economic expansion."

The overall growth continues to be 60 percent "natural population," which means an excess of births compared to deaths in the county, said Dr. Larry Lyon, also of Baylor's CCRD.

"We do have positive net migration, but it accounts for 40 percent of growth at best," Lyon said.

The domestic in-migration stream continues to be larger than the international one, the estimates show.

"The international in-migration to McLennan County peaked in the middle part of the decade and is only about half now of what it was before the economic downturn," said Dr. Robyn Driskell of the CCRD.

Looking back to the beginning of the series in 2000 is important as county residents begin to return the 2010 Census forms, Tolbert said.

"We live in a county that added around 20,000 persons to its population in a ten-year period," he said. "That's nearly 10 percent growth. With the 2010 data, we will know much more about who these folks are and therefore more about what sorts of infrastructural adjustments may be needed.

"My hunch is that the natural growth is being driven by a younger population that is going through the family formation stage. That has implications for our early childhood facilities, our K-12 schools, and our technical and college-level providers."

Said Lyon: "It probably is to the county's advantage that it does not have the 3 percent annual growth that our Austin-area neighbors are experiencing. We have a chance to get ahead of this growth curve and maintain the quality of life in this area."

Mencken concurred: "I'll settle for the Waco-area rush minute any day over the rush hours our friends have just south of us."

For further information, contact the Center for Community Development, (254) 710-3811 or Charles Tolbert

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